The Power of No

Had coffee with a friend the other day who’d just received the “Thank you for your interest” email that goes on to say that although she was a strong candidate blah blah blah, she didn’t get the job.

I listened as she told me about the phone screens, on site interviews and the follow up phone calls. She was a finalist and had obviously put a lot of energy into it.

“What was their culture like?” I asked.

She described a fairly traditional top-down management system where people seemed to be rewarded by coloring within the lines. There was a fair amount of process in place with checks and balances and scheduled reviews as well as ongoing meetings.

In short, a fairly controlled environment. On its face neither bad or good: lots of organizations are designed – and run well – in this way.

“How do you think you would have fit there?” I probed.

She thought for a second, looked up from her coffee and then said, “not well.” And then she smiled.

“I think they figured that out,” I smiled with her.

My friend is incredibly smart with over ten years of HR management experience in small organizations with lean staffs. She often works directly with leadership constantly pulling orgs into compliance on one hand while on the other playing the advocate for strategic use of human resources.

And the opportunity she went for is in a bigger organization with more money and budget and people.

And it was a smaller job.

Here’s the point:

Sometimes “No” is the best thing that can happen

She’s going to get a great new position: so will you. But the next time she looks she’s going to listen to that inner voice that compares the potential employer’s culture to her own strengths and values.

We all stretch ourselves over the course of career and sometimes that means working in challenging cultures. But if she makes that move she’ll do it knowingly.

Being aware of cultural fit and recognizing areas of gap and overlap is an important part of managing your career – and no one can manage your career but you.

So, by all means, take that phone call, set up those meetings and do your due diligence on a potential employer. Just remember: “no” might be the right answer to your next opportunity.

And you can say “No” just as readily as they can


3 thoughts on “The Power of No

  1. Very interesting article Christopher. Especially the “coloring withing the lines” part! Yet, how many organizations do you know of that expect you to color outside the lines (innovate) but do not give you the mandate to do so since they are stuck within the lines? Frustrating stuff, isn’t it?

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